Investigators warn of timber theft crime

Timber Theft Arrest

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - The recent arrest of a suspect on a theft charge, has East Texas law enforcement warning the public about a crime that is more common than you might think.

The thickly forested East Texas area is also a prime target for theft, timber theft.

“Unfortunately we see this quite a bit. Most people don’t realize just how prolific it is,” says Jarod Lemon of the Texas A & M Forest Service Law Enforcement.

Earlier this month, Texas A&M forest service officers arrested 59-year-old Edward Tom Williams of Longview on a charge of timber theft in Harrison county.

It was a warrant for theft of property valued between $25-hundred and $30-thousand dollars.

Game warden Todd Long has seen people effected by theft.

"I have several landowner friends who have been hit by these timber thieves. This is a rich area, East Texas is known for its hardwood," Long says.

The answer is simple. In Texas timber is big money.

"It's money, absolutely. And these guys are in and out quick, know their business. Lot of times they know the landowner as an absentee landowner, that might not even check their property," says Long.

"There is so much money that can be made off a timber harvest. Upwards of 25-30 thousand on a 10 acre track, maybe more," Lemon says.

Absentee landowners are often victimized by crews who simply move in undetected, and harvest the timber.

And landowners can be duped by someone who seems legitimate.

"The vast majority of timber theft starts with a legitimate contract with a logger. They didn't receive all their money, they may get short paid, they may not get paid at all," says Lemon.

Texas forest service says that theft of timber often runs into the hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in losses.

They advise landowners to fence or purple-paint their trees to discourage timber theft.

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